Author: Karen Simmons

Creating then and now.

It’s Sept. 2….a fabulous Labor Day weekend begins. The rush of setting up and organizing the first few days is to continue procedures, procedures, procedures and the act of teaching the standards. It’s time to fill in the portfolios with goals, look ahead at the map, choose ways to achieve these goals, and take every students’ picture. (More about that in the next blog) and get those project materials ready…

Last night one of my former students called from PA. Her son was beginning 3rd grade the next day (yes I know, I’m old) and she said it brought back a flood of memories of her favorite, most memorable year. (Tears are allowed now). I asked what she remembered the most and what set that year apart.
What did she hope that her son would also experience in 2016-2017?

“The projects, of course,” she answered. Be still my heart. I love validation. But she went on….
“Everything we created, I retained. I remember being awed by the materials we used, the way everyone’s projects looked different, and how I couldn’t wait to go to school the next day. Whether we were learning about the history of the city, the city leaders-created characters, or the math notebooks we kept full of projects, we were always creating. Through this I have a love of reading, writing, and science. I hope my son has this…..”

When we hung up I felt so happy. Not only had I reached this student, but Cindy and I ( and believe me she has even more stories ) have created a way to continue being the kind of teachers that students remember, and happily they remember how they learned…

Teaching “hands-on” and, of course, incorporating that important rigor of today can be combined to make all teachers memorable, validated, and happy….Make skills retainable, and students  accountable.  Give it a try, the Bag Ladies way.


Living through “RIGOR” in the creative classroom

Written by : Posted on August 5, 2016 : No Comments

It’s here!! Time for readin, ritin, rithmetic, and RIGOR. Yes, we said it….RIGOR!!! It is the educational “catch phrase” of every school we visit. After much research, discussion, and tears..many…we believe that rigor refers to bringing students at every grade to a higher level of thinking, encouraging them to think critically…and here it comes…..CREATIVELY. It is the job of the teacher to create ( we love that word), the environment that supports this thinking, creating, and questioning. So…….here come the Bag Ladies to help you !!!!

We start the year with a piece of fictional literature that we read to our students and a combination of our units as we “teach” them how to ask questions, hold conversations, see grammar and language skills in the piece, respond to characters, write about thoughts and support, sketch, agree with another’s opinion or disagree and how to express this…

As we create our portfolios to house these new learning tools, each day we create a section for students to fill out and share. They respond, they wonder, they enrich, creating new ideas, characters, and thoughts through projects….. Yes it is rigorous, but it is also FUN!!!!!!!!

Next time…..”It’s all about the projects, bout the projects, bout the projects”. …



Portfolios, Projects, Preplanning. Oh My…

Written by : Posted on July 21, 2016 : No Comments

Are you checking out the units and making models of portfolios and projects?  I am!

Projects using bags, envelopes, card stock, and weaving loops; wire ties, file folders, lunch bags, and index cards; hair bands, survey tape and scrapbook paper.

Interactive and fun

Interactive and fun

Non-fiction topics

Non-fiction topics

File folder triarama

File folder triarama


The ABCs of Text Features

The ABCs of Text Features

Book Study

Book Study

Journals, jots, and procedures

to see a sneak preview of  some  projects? Here they are……..


Written by : Posted on July 7, 2016 : No Comments

It’s still thinking time…Lets think theme!!! What theme would you like your room to be? As teachers we spend a lot of time in our classroom..let’s make them FUN. After all, there’s plenty of rigor, let’s make our environment a great place to learn!!

Our theme today is Beach, one of our favorite places.  If I can’t be there I bring it into the classroom. (See pics on previous blog) I use Beach Blast and A Day At The Beach

Maybe you’d like CSI and make your classroom a place for Classroom Skill Investigators…..spies, caution tape, puzzles, secret codes, and 001,002.003..well, you get it. Or… about Castles, or Under Construction (tool belts and tool boxes) cones. Or, stay with us….Above the Ground, On the Ground, Under the Ground. That includes everything. What a great theme!!

So….while you’re thinking of theme, start collecting things for your classroom bulletin boards, organizers, and inflatables. Look over our theme  units for great projects for skills

We  draw up our rooms with our visions and designs ( HGTV has nothing on us), and we make it functional, easy flow and movement, clear space use,  organized, fun!!

Having a theme allows you to make good choices for: portfolios, play money/rewards, book choices.

Stay tuned for more room pics in August!!! But for now, think THEME. 

Pictures of Beach Theme Classroom

Written by : Posted on July 4, 2016 : No Comments
Reading happens under the beach umbrella.

Reading happens under the beach umbrella.

Argh Sharpen pencils etc

Argh Sharpen pencils etc

Sail Into Great Books

Sail Into Great Books

Love the Beach Table Skirt

Love the Beach Table Skirt

It’s July! No planning but start to THINK

Written by : Posted on July 3, 2016 : No Comments

Procedures….Think about your rules, ways to move in halls, and consequences. Expectations and how to teach them. What’s your reward system? Do you have a “Fun Friday”? Think about what it will be, how you’ll implement and change it up. Make 30-45 minutes reward for following procedures worth it to win it. Check out our projects that students love to create, then use it the entire next week of class for the skills you are teaching.

Portfolios…..Time to think about those interactive notebooks. Binders are just too big to carry home, composition books too small and waste of pages…our bag portfolios…just right!!!
We use them for every subject, and empty and re supply paper every trimester. Easy to carry, easy to use, and fun to make and take ownership. Check out SOS unit. Decorate to be their own….and make your own to introduce yourself and model your notebook. We suggest the whole notebook is ready to be filled in…run off….in order. Will save you work after the start date.

Parent Communication…..from Curriculum Night to Parent Conferences to weekly review of all class work and tests, we have your back!!!! Please have a curriculum night. The parents won’t remember one thing you say about curriculum but they will remember that you will be there for them and their child. They will remember that you love your job and the good news is you are always available to discuss their child. Have students make our bag backpacks for each desk filled with things that count, important papers, and wish lists for them to fill in and send back….be sure they wear their backpacks home! The first week of school we make signed paper folders. Students take this 3 bag folder home filled with all of the class work, test results, homework, parent school communication…and they sign that they received it.
Cover these important parts of your classroom sanity before you start teaching curriculum and you will have a fabulous rest of the year….

Are you thinking? Happy 4th from the Bag Ladies.

Organizing supplies

Written by : Posted on June 22, 2016 : No Comments

Our schedules are changed right now. Cindy is RVing and paddle board/boating in FL. I am at the beach and continuing my determination to paddle board! But don’t think we aren’t thinking / planning new projects and products !

Along with gathering supplies, organization of those supplies for storage and use is important.

We use Target plastic storage shelves, the kind that come with 3-4 drawers. We gather, arrange supplies in drawers, and label. Some examples of labels are:
Washi tape/survey tape/duct tape
Coffee sleeves / envelopes
Lunch bags
Glue sticks/ Glitter Glue
Scotch tape
Wide packaging tape
Ribbon/ hair ties/ wire ties
Water colors, paint crayons
Markers – all kinds
Popsicle/ tongue dep sticks
Wow !!! We could keep going!!!!
Colored writing paper
File folders – old ones to recycle
Scrapbook paper scraps

Move these four (4) drawer bins into and across your classroom, fill, and label. Your project materials will always be where you and the students have easy access.

I know you’re ready to use these….hope you are making samples from the units !!!

Bag Ladies are Blogging in June

Written by : Posted on June 20, 2016 : No Comments

It’s June and we are off! Relaxed! Getting re energized! Rethinking! Reevaluating! Redoing!!

We are excited to start you thinking “out of the bag”.  With all the rigor going on in our classrooms, we sometimes forget that learning can be fun for students of all curriculums and abilities!! The Bag Ladies will help you make that happen each month in this blog. So June is our  “get ready- get your supplies- read, decide, and ready to make projects next month!!!  You will go back to school with a whole new relaxed, re energized, rethought out, reevaluated “bag of projects”. So…….let’s get started!!!!!

Supplies. Grab your scissors, lots of glue sticks, some wide packaging tape, hole punchers, markers, decorative tape, regular tape, and bags. We order ours from  and they send them right to our school. Share and split costs with your team!!  While you have off this is a great time to collect “free” materials from local stores and purchase at the Dollar Stores. We use gift bags, brown bags, lunch bags, scrapbook paper, card stock, while you are collecting, look  over our units where we show a full project sample page to make in each unit. Try your hand at these projects and let us know your favorites.

June is a great month to adventure and explore for next year without the pressure of the next day classroom. Have fun! Collect ideas and visit as we “paddle” you through June. Did I tell you Cindy and I are paddle boarding? She’s actually great at it. I’m beginning but determined. Mix planning with fun and you can’t go wrong!!!